Category: Uncategorized

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A.I. without borders

Some researchers from African countries were barred from attending last week’s  A.I. conference  in Montréal due to visa issues. 

The story is covered in this Wired article

The organizers of the Black in A.I. workshop were working around the clock with immigration experts, but at least 40 presenters were not able to attend. 

Even Justin Trudeau has promised an investigation, though after the fact.

This story again puts front and center the ways in which technologies that offer so much in the way of potential are being circumscribed by the diminishing commitment to open and fair borders.

A major AI conference will be hosted in Addis in 2020. Will that be a step towards opening the borders of research and development in AI?

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Missed Opportunities for Using Text in Data Visualization

Data for Breakfast

Richard Brath, a partner at Uncharted Software and the author of Graph Analysis and Visualization, recently completed his Ph.D. thesis on using text in data visualization. Recently, Richard talked about his thesis with data visualization enthusiasts at Automattic. Before Richard’s talk, it seemed me that text has been treated as a “second-class citizen” in the data visualization world. But even I was surprised about the wealth of visual information that we can offer using text.

Richard Brath was kind enough to allow us to publish his talk for the global audience. You can find Richard’s blog at https://richardbrath.wordpress.com.

Enjoy the lecture.

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GeorgiaHistorySocial JusticeUncategorizedVoting

Who’s worse Brian Kemp or Lester Maddox?

Feeling some despair headed back to Georgia, and the U.S. generally after a month in India.

It’s about this question: Will Brian Kemp govern Georgia like Lester Maddox?

Lester Maddox became the governor of Georgia during my childhood. He was openly racist, was famous for selling axe handles with which to beat down civil rights activists, and actively fought a state memorial immediately after Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Until Brian Kemp, I don’t remember any Georgia governor who so actively and openly embraced race based voter suppression and racist immigration messages.

Yet Maddox apparently went on the most aggressive hiring of African Americans in the state’s history.

I’m finding solace knowing that people of color in Georgia nonviolently sacrificed their livelihoods and their lives to end the Maddox mode of governance.

Those sacrifices opened the door for people like Stacey Abrams, Andrew Young, and Jimmy Carter.

Our grandmothers and uncles and neighbors did this with an inner soul power (to quote Dr King) that could not be suppressed by axe handles or tear gas. I find strength knowing that we can call on that soul power to do the same again.

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Engineering Data Science at Automattic

Many useful gleanings from my colleague Yanir Seroussi — he has a plan to keep the interest on your A.I. technical debt real low.

Data for Breakfast

Most data scientists have to write code to analyze data or build products. While coding, data scientists act as software engineers. Adopting best practices from software engineering is key to ensuring the correctness, reproducibility, and maintainability of data science projects. This post describes some of our efforts in the area.

Data scientist Venn diagram example One of many data science Venn diagrams. Source: Data Science Stack Exchange

Different data scientists, different backgrounds

Data science is often defined as the intersection of many fields, including software engineering and statistics. However, as demonstrated by the above Venn diagram, viewing it as an intersection tends to be too exclusive – in reality, it’s a union of many fields. Hence, data scientists tend to come from various backgrounds, and it is common to encounter data scientists with no formal training in computer science or software engineering. According to Michael Hochster, data scientists can be classified into two types

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May the Bot Be With You: How Algorithms are Supporting Happiness at WordPress.com

A summary of recent NLP work to enhance support happiness.

Data for Breakfast

Our excellent support is a big part of what makes WordPress.com a compelling platform for so many. Each month, we respond to 60,000 support requests on topics ranging from plugins to mapping existing domains to WordPress.com. Some questions arise several times daily, while others require novel solutions from our Happiness Engineers who have a deep understanding of our products, a skill for asking the right questions, a commitment to support, inventiveness, and creativity.

Recently, in looking at how machine learning and natural language processing could be useful to Happiness Engineers (HEs) in responding to support questions, we discovered two places where these technologies offer value.

First, our Happiness Engineers often rely on tried and true responses to some of the more straightforward questions. We call these pre-defined responses predefs. Many HEs develop personal favorites, and some predefs eventually become part of our best practices based on their ability to succinctly express…

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Welcoming New Colleagues — a Data-Based Story

One of the many reasons it’s a joy to work at Automattic

Data for Breakfast

With over 545 employees spread over more than 50 countries, Automattic is one of the largest distributed companies in the world.

Being distributed means that we, as Automatticians, work on our common goal to democratize publishing from wherever we wish. It also means that we heavily rely on online communication.

Besides providing flexibility, working in a distributed company brings challenges when you meet in person. Does X from team I/O appreciate informal humor?What is the hobby of Y, a member of the Happiness Engineering team?Does Z, our team’s HR person, smile a lot or only when taking a gravatar picture? The answers to these questions are trivial to get in a “traditional” company but not in a distributed environment.

However, this information is critical. It helps us relate to one another and form strong relationships that nourish creativity and cooperation. If the challenge doesn’t seem hard enough to…

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